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'Carpocalypse' comes to Canada as rental car shortage worsens – CBC.ca

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When James Charles-Roberts booked a vehicle back in May, he and his family were looking forward to a two-week holiday in Southern California.

After several attempts to visit Disneyland were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the November vacation would be a chance for the Victoria, B.C., family to use their theme park tickets before they expire.

However, when Charles-Roberts called in June to move his reservation for a seven-passenger Ford Explorer by a day, the cost of the car rental nearly tripled.

“I booked the vehicle for $480 and when I called to make a change the price was $1,286,” he said in an interview. “It was just a minor change so we decided to keep our first reservation.”

The car rental shortage — or “carpocalypse” as it’s been dubbed in the U.S. — highlights what is expected to be a bumpy economic recovery as supply chain issues throw car rental supply and demand out of whack.

The problem started when nearly all travel was halted at the outset of COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Car rental reservations plummeted, prompting companies to drastically downsize fleets and lay off workers.

“Most if not all car rental operators across the world had to reduce their fleets significantly during the pandemic due to extreme reductions in consumer demand,” said Craig Hirota, vice-president of government relations and member services with the Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators.

“Nobody was travelling for vacation and corporate travel was basically non-existent. It left a lot of unused vehicles sitting on lots.”

Lots of demand

Now, the situation has reversed. As the economy reopens and demand returns, a global shortage of semiconductors has crippled vehicle production and caused lengthy delays for new cars and trucks.

“The car rental industry has not been able to resupply their fleets,” Hirota said. “They just can’t get vehicles.”

Enterprise Holdings, the U.S. parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car, said the chip shortage “has impacted new vehicle availability and deliveries across the industry at a time when demand is already high.”

The company added in an emailed statement that it’s “working hard to secure additional vehicles to meet the increasing travel demand and support customers’ broader transportation needs.”

Prices skyrocketing for what’s left

In the meantime, car rental operators are jacking up rates amid the tight supply and increasing demand.

“I think there’s some price-gouging going on for sure,” Charles-Roberts said of his experience trying to change his Los Angeles airport vehicle reservation.

The industry-wide car rental crunch is already in full force in the United States, where stories are emerging of tourists renting U-Haul moving vans or private vehicles from locals to get around.

Car rental companies slashed their fleets when demand plummeted in 2020, and now they can’t ramp up fast enough to keep up with demand. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

The problem is expected to worsen in Canada this summer, especially in regions that rely heavily on tourism.

Many airport locations in East Coast cities like Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s are nearly sold out on weekends this summer.

“The impact is being felt everywhere — at least in hot tourism spots across Canada and the U.S.,” Gary Howard, senior vice-president of marketing and communications with CAA Atlantic, said in an email.

“Most of the fleets are leased so during the high point of COVID, fleets were shrinking,” he said. “Now it is coming back but the car rental companies cannot get enough vehicles back in the fleets.”

While the car rental shortage is expected to be felt more acutely in tourism destinations, prices are up across the country.

Hamilton resident Allyson Rowley said she often rents cars for long-distance travel and to visit family.

In 2019, she said she usually paid about $30 a day, an amount that climbed to about $40 in 2020. But Rowley said she just booked a car for two weeks in August, and the price was $61.52 a day.

“The cost has doubled since before the pandemic,” she said. “I’ve made an ethical and financial choice to not own a car as I mostly walk and bike and only rent a car when I need one, but it’s becoming unaffordable.”

For travellers hoping to rent a car this summer, experts say it’s critical to book early, search beyond airport locations and be prepared to pay more than usual.

It may also require alternatives to car rentals such as car sharing or public transportation as they say the shortage isn’t expected to ease up any time soon.

“If you’re planning travel, we encourage you to reserve a vehicle as early as possible,” Enterprise Holdings said. “Providing flexible travel dates and branch pickup locations in your search may help increase your options.”

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Early Robinhood investor Jason Calacanis on trading app's imminent IPO – CNBC Television

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Robinhood Flirts With Worst Debut Ever for IPO of Its Size – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Robinhood Markets Inc. wanted to make history with its initial public offering, and now it might — for the wrong reason.

Shares in the broker behind the meme-stock revolution fell as much as 12% below the IPO price in the company’s first trading session. That puts the stock in the running to rank as the worst debut on record among U.S. firms that raised as much cash as Robinhood or more, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Shares rebounded and were last trading 1% lower at $37.52 mid-afternoon in New York.

Robinhood must finish Thursday’s session at $34.90 or higher, or else it will replace the 2007 IPO by another brokerage, MF Global Holdings Ltd., as the worst debut among qualifying firms. MF Global ended its first day down 8.2%.

Read more: Robinhood Loses More Ground in Trading Debut After Muted IPO

The stock opened at the $38 initial public offering price. For an IPO of Robinhood’s size and larger, that’s the weakest opening trade since Uber Technologies Inc. in May of 2019 among U.S. firms. Uber finished its debut session down 7.6%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Google and Facebook will require U.S. workers to be vaccinated to return to the office – CBC.ca

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Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

The more highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Google’s announcement Wednesday was shortly followed by one from Facebook, which also said it will make vaccines mandatory for U.S. employees who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons.

“With regards to our Canadian offices, we don’t have specifics to share yet,” a spokesperson for Facebook told CBC News. “We will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves.”

In an email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning Oct. 18, instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1.

The decision also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote.

Pichai disclosed that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and other U.S. offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

‘The stuff that needs to be done’

Google has extensive operations in Canada, but the company did not immediately reply to a request for comment as to when such a policy may be implemented for its Canadian work force. Pichai’s letter, however, makes it clear that it is not just a U.S. policy.

“We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” he said.

WATCH | How social media is helping spread misinformation like a virus:

U.S. officials say misinformation has plagued the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and case counts across the country are rising. 2:02

Public health experts are lauding the move.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

“It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

Various government agencies already have announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated, but the corporate world so far has been taking a more measured approach, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.

Most employers hesitant to require vaccines

Delta and United airlines are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are requiring their employees to disclose their vaccination status, but are not requiring staffers to be vaccinated.

Less than 10 per cent of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by the research firm Gartner.

Although the vaccination policy is only in effect in the U.S. for now, Google makes it clear it plans to expand it to other countries where it operates too. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

While other major technology companies may follow suit now that Google and Facebook have taken stands on vaccines, employers in other industries still may be reluctant, predicted Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s human resources practice.

“Google is seen as being such a different kind of company that I think it’s going to take one or two more big employers to do something similar in terms of becoming a game changer,” Kropp said.

Google’s vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulations of each location, Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai explained.

The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine skepticism and misinformation.

It’s unclear how many of Google’s workers still haven’t been vaccinated. In his email, Pichai described the vaccination rate at the company as high.

Remote work still going strong

Google’s decision to extend its remote work follows a similar move by another technology powerhouse, Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October, too.

The delays by Apple and Google could influence other major employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home.

WATCH | Business travel particularly slow to bounce back:

A recent study from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicts that business travel won’t return to pre-pandemic levels for years. Many companies and business travellers are finding that they can cut costs by switching to virtual events and meetings, which could hurt businesses which rely on corporate travel. 1:59

This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Google’s vaccine requirement also could embolden other employers to issue similar mandates to guard against outbreaks and minimize the need to wear masks in the office.

While most companies are planning to bring back their workers at least a few days a week, others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.

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